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October 31, 2007


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I understand the frustration of receiving tons of spam emails - especially if the person hasn't taken the effort to personalize the email or research your area of expertise.

So here's a question, if you're one of the lucky ones not to be blocked, then would you be blocked if your email was slightly off target?

Linda VandeVrede

Here's the other side of the coin -- at a panel presentation a few years ago, the editors were chastising the PR attendees for spamming and not doing due diligence on them. When I asked the question in return -- "you are all covering the so-called 'technology' beat - what do you do in your spare time to read up on technology and keep up with the latest news and companies?' -- there was resounding silence.

PR people get criticized all the time - justly - but it's time the bloggers, editors and other influencers are held to task for their responsibility to keep informed. They can be just as lazy.

David Meerman Scott


I agree with you!

For my part, in my books and articles and the blog posts I write about what people are doing to be successful. I do the research. I interview many people. I don't just sit by passively.

Also, I sit on the board of directors or board of advisors of a half dozen companies and from that, I try to understand what it takes to succeed.

Before I set off to do my own thing, I was a PR person at two public companies. I have walked the walk.

I'm not against pitches and press releases at all.

What I hate is when I am one of 500 or 1000 journalists who get a generic message from a PR person that has nothing to do me or with what I cover. Just an hour ago I got a press release about a chip manufacturer that did a deal with Nokia. That has absolutely nothing to do with what I cover!! Why should that PR person have the right to waste my time?

Take care and thanks for reading my blog.


Richard Becker

I don't get it David.

The public relations industry is always asking what editors, journalists, and even bloggers want.

So, Chris told them. You told them. Lots of people told them. And for the most part, they reject it.

Thanks for telling them the truth; even if they prefer the PR slant.



I cannot imagine sending a PR pitch that is not targeted to the specific person. I always write short pesonal notes on my pitch emails and ensure these are geared toward those on the receiving end. Abby


I can understand Chris' frustration. I just graduated college in May and we are often taught to send our messages out to anyone and everyone, praying someone will find something valuable in our news. That's obviously something that needs to be taught and implemented immediately.

David Meerman Scott


Unfortunately what you were taught in school is wrong. You were taught to be a spam artist. That is not good for your carrer.

While it is fine to send a lot of pitches - it is only OK if each one is targeted and is personalized. It is not OK to send to a huge list that opens "Dear %first name%,

Take care and thanks for taking the time to write.


Jacquelyn Lynn

The problem is that so many PR people are looking for the easy way, and they're under the misperception that spam "news" releases are an easy way to get their clients exposure.

Earlier this week, I was giving a talk on effective use of the business media in marketing, and someone asked if I had a media list I would share. I said no and repeated what I already said about studying markets and building relationships with journalists. Next time, I'll add that when you use generic media lists, you may find yourself labeled a spammer -- and blocked from communicating with the people you want to reach.

Tim Allik

David, the problem with spam is that it works only once (if that), and successful PR is - as you point out - built over time.

The kind folks who send out those delightful Nigerian scam spams are banking on just one befuddled person in a million falling for the trap - just once, mind you - and to hell with the other 999,999.

That's diametrically opposed to what good PR does, which is to build trusted relationships over multiple give-and-take interactions.

Maybe this all just boils down to good manners. PR people should be thoughtful and genuine in their approach, and reporters should be receptive to honest dialogue.


So David, you are quite proudly out giving speeches, writing books, promoting your blog, writing for a bunch of different publications, in general making a living off of promoting yourself across multiple media. Yet somehow when your name gets known to people and they begin contacting you, you are all in a bundle because it isn't helpful or interesting to you.

Wired Magazine purchases mass list and drops little subscription cards all over the planet. Yet how dare anyone else possibly consider anything but a personal, unique approach to engaging them.

Boo hoo.

David Meerman Scott


Interesting question you pose. I think the difference is that people choose to consume the stuff I produce (or not). I don't spam my stuff out to them.

I'm very receptive to personal emails (that's why I have my email address on this blog). I've put people into books and speeches who have contacted me with interesting stuff.

I just don't think it is productive for PR people to send me an email that is also sent to 500 or 1000 other people just because email makes it so easy for them to do so. Not only is it not going to help them, it harms their brand (or their clients) because the 500 or 1000 people they send it to are annoyed.

Why do something that doesn’t work and is annoying?

Again, I am pleased to get personal email (and comments to this blog). It is the mass, non-personal, broadcast “please write about me” stuff that isn’t appropriate.

Thanks for writing.


I was extremely surprised to see the large number of emails from major PR agencies. I wonder if those agiences are doing anything to combat the negative press they are receiving via Chris's post.


We've been talking about this in my new media class and we've hit a dilemma. While we know that spamming is bad, we also know that as entry level employees it is completely feasible that our employer will tell us to send pitches out to everyone and anyone. How do we respond to this? As "grinders" with no clout what do we do when asked to spam?

Tim Allik

Hi TJW, I'd suggest that you will be measured only by results in your new position, not by how many reporters you have spammed.

To that end, I'd use the Google Blog and News Search tools to narrow down a list of reporters who have recently written about a topic that is related to your pitch. Follow up with them in the context of their recent coverage.
This should be your very first priority.

If you really, really need to pitch a release to a long list of reporters, take the time and effort to read up on each one of them. Keep the pitch short and to the point and try to be helpful in providing some relevancy based on their prior coverage. Don't ping them more than once and don't follow up with a phone call unless you're absolutely convinced they can use the story.

It's better to devote 80 percent of your time to a short list of high value, high potential prospects than to spamming a release out to God knows who.

Your results will be better, I can assure you. And that's all that really matters in the end.

Good luck.

David Meerman Scott

Excellent advice, Tim. I agree 100%.


Feel better TJW! It's not just grinders out there spamming. I'm swimming the tide at a publisher who has hundreds of titles in 10-15 distinct markets with wider subsets in each. I've been there 7 months and I'm still on a sharp learning curve, trying my best target the right people in various markets. At any given point an editor or marketing person can come to me and ask where's my media list. If I show them three good contacts they look at me like I haven't been working. Rock...hard place. I think PRs are easy targets because editors have power and it's their job to report/make news. I don't believe it's entirely PR laziness. There is often serendipity involved in what catches the imagination of one editor vs the other. I wouldn't want to assume that I know better than any editor what their readers might or might not be interested in. I do like to send little notes to my eds once I've established contact and feel I understand their market. There's plenty of room for improvement in the whole process, and possibly a little for the milk of human kindness.


I am still confused about the gray areas of the PR spam. I was recently assigned a project that required me to connect with as many organizations within a targeted industry (water sports) as possible. In order to inform the largest audience possible about our scholarship giveaway campaign, the only option that I saw fit was to blast out a very brief synopsis of my organization's goals. Basically, I needed a platform that allowed for a quick output and a massive audience reach. While I went to each targeted organization's Web site before sending the e-mail, it was definately spam. What other avenues could I take that would keep everyone happy, but still be effective? Thanks!

David Meerman Scott


That's what this entire blog and my book and my speeches are about. You can publish the organization's ideas directly through blog, YouTube video, podcasts, content rich websites, social networks like facebook, and on and on.

YOU do the publishing. Then the media will find you.


Dave Schmidt


Y'right, and so is Chris Anderson. When did "saturation distribution" of press releases devour the PR business.
Hope your book sales have been brisk.

-Dave Schmidt


Did you catch this post on On-Line Media Daily?


I'm happier than ever that my company cancelled our contract with our spam-enabling journalist database service. We're saving tons of $$ and getting better coverage.

Jamie Favreau

Very good ideas here. I am trying to build a blogger community and I felt like I was spamming even though I knew everyone I was trying to contact. I had tweeted to them or was on Facebook. I have used Linked In too but basically I have been trying to use my own network. It is a blogger aggregation site and I am working to build the local end of it.

David Meerman Scott

@Jamie Before you send anyone a message, think about what it would be like to receive it. If there is any doubt about people wanting it, don't send.

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